Protecting Personal Injury Settlements from Divorce
There are a lot of questions when it comes to how personal injury settlements are handled when the issue of divorce comes up. These rules are often made on a state-by-state basis, which is why you need state specific advice on how these situations are handled. Florida is no exception to that, and if you are dealing with a personal injury settlement and divorcing a spouse, it's important to know what your rights are.
Basics of Property Division
The first thing to understand is that Florida is an equitable distribution state that also uses an analytical approach. This means that during a divorce, while shared assets are split between the two parties, they also take a look at what is considered personal or separate assets. Not everything is split down the middle. This is a critical aspect of how Florida handles divorces that you need to understand to get how personal injury settlements play into things.
How Personal Injury Works in Florida
Generally speaking, unless there are some very unique circumstances, a personal injury settlement will not be something that can be divided up in a divorce. This means if your spouse is the one with the personal injury settlement then chances are you probably will not be entitled to any of it. This is true going the opposite way, as well. If you are someone who suffered and won a personal injury judgement then chances are that in a divorce you will keep it.
There are several reasons for this. The first goes to the question of marital assets versus personal assets. When it comes to personal injury, the injury is just that: "personal." This means by the definition of law it is already focused in on one person and not on the union or the marriage itself. That's pretty hard to overcome.
Another reason is how the process of personal injury payments works out. Medical bills get paid first. Often times when a personal injury case is going on there will be several "Letters of Protection" sent by hospitals and doctors putting a claim in for whatever services were rendered. These get paid first and obviously none of that money goes to either the husband or wife.
The part of the settlement due to lost wages or additional treatment and support expenses is also going to go to the person who actually lost the wages or needed treatment. In Florida, this goes entirely to the person who suffered. Even the lost wages are not owed in a divorce in most circumstances.
Finally, the largest part of a personal injury settlement can often be the reward for pain and suffering. Once in again the pain and suffering is personal to the individual who had to go through it and go through court, which also makes that untouchable for the spouse.
You can see fairly quickly when these reasons stack up why most of a personal injury settlement will never be available to be split in a divorce. Even with this being the case, you should still make sure to be straight with your attorney for both the personal injury case and the divorce to be sure of what your options are.
When in Florida, it's generally safe to say that most of the time a personal injury settlement will not be shared in a divorce case. However, it's always important to have proper legal representation at all times to make sure you're not signing a document you shouldn't or not making a mistake that could prove extremely costly down the line.